Cigarettes Will Always be Home

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Contributor: Cooper Shea

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I’m six years old, it’s Sunday.
Mom kneels at her garden,
which isn’t really one,
just a small patch of soil by the driveway for Hosta plants.
She stops, takes her pack of Marlboro Ultra-Lights from her sock,
lights one and says to me:

If you ever want to experience the hardest thing in your life,
start smoking.

I’m 14, it’s a Friday night
after the football game, behind the tennis court.
She wears ripped jeans, converse, a Pink Floyd t-shirt
and smokes a Methol Pall-Mall.
No girl has ever touched the back of my neck like this.
I don’t know how I muster the strength
but I kiss her and it tastes like broken rules and burnt cough drops.
After, she offers me the pack:

Have one.

I’m 16, a hot Wednesday night.
Mom sits on the porch.
She barely has time to snub out a butt before lighting another.
I come out, like she asked.
She’s smoking from my pack.

Recognize these?

She says but there’s no scold in her voice.
I just sit down
and she gives me a light.

I’m 10, it’s summer on my grandparents farm.
Grandpa teaches me how to chuck feed into the trough for the cattle.
When they’re all fed,
he takes his Winston’s out of the pocket if his snap button shirt.
He looks like a cowboy off a billboard,
hardworking man having a smoke at the end of a tough day.
He lights one,
coughs and says:

Goddamn, I outta quit.

I’m 21 and it’s winter.
Mom invites me out to the porch
to talk about how serious things are with my girlfriend.
She lights what she says is her first all day,
and offers me the pack.
I want it, God knows.
I say:

I’m good.

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